for flute and piano; commissioned by the Fort Hays State University New Music Ensemble (2021)
Inspired by the 2020 novel of the same name by
Susanna Clarke. From its description:
Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with
thousand upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean
is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he
understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth iteslf. He lives to explore the house.
There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other—who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help
with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person,
and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.
In this piece I hope you can hear Piranesi playing his bone flute, and hear the ocean tides surging, and the
endless statues. And I hope you read the book—it’s magnificent. Piranesi is dedicated to Kristin Pisano and
flutist Hilary Shepard, who gave the first performance with pianist Gustavo do Carno.
Chaconne/Labyrinth (online premiere, April 2021)
for the Jupiter Quartet; commissioned by the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music (2020)
“Chaconne” is an old-fashioned word for a repeating chord progression, like the 12-bar blues.
My chords are a little weirder, using just intonation to find notes that don’t exist on the piano keyboard.
Here the wonderful Jupiter Quartet plays a chaconne, but at the same time they are lost in a labyrinth. The chords keep returning,
only to point in new directions. This is how I’ve felt the past year: stuck in a loop, but at the same time lost in a maze,
desperately seeking the way out. At the center of this maze, like the Minotaur of Greek myth, lies a depiction of the coronavirus
that has so profoundly changed our world. After this encounter—marked by strange, percussive sounds—the quartet traces their way,
like following Ariadne's thread, back through the labyrinth.
Winged Helix (YouTube, score-following video)
for the Grossman Ensemble (2020)
A portrait in sound of the gene FOXP2, the so-called “language gene,”
which plays an important role for other animals’ communication as well. When even a tiny mutation occurs,
we can lose our ability to speak. “Winged helix” refers to the shape of the protein that FOXP2 encodes.
It is a regulator: its job is to help unspool other strands of DNA to become activated, and it surrounds the
DNA double helix like a pair of wings. The harmonies for the piece feature just intonation—naturally occurring,
microtonal overtones that aren’t often heard. I don’t usually write harmonies this difficult,
but if anyone can pull it off, it’s the Grossman Ensemble!
Commissioned by the Center for Contemporary Composition at the University of Chicago, and dedicated to Augusta Read Thomas.
Always Coming Home (SoundCloud)
for wind ensemble (2019)
A brief fanfare based on the spiritual “Steal Away,” one of the most beautiful melodies I know.
It appears first in the trombones, and gradually grows to the full ensemble.
Steal away, steal away
Steal away to Jesus
Steal away, steal away home I ain’t got long to stay here.
Green trees are bending
Poor sinner stands a-trembling
The trumpet sounds within my soul I ain’t got long to stay here.
Sunset in All Directions (YouTube)
for cello and chamber orchestra (2018)
In August 2017 our family drove down to Carbondale, Illinois for the total eclipse.
It was like nothing in the world I’ve ever seen, and we’re making plans for the next one on April 8, 2024.
The moments just before totality, in the words of my friend Matthew Ando, look like “sunset in all directions.”
In this work I’ve tried to represent the celestial bodies involved — the Sun, Moon,
and Earth — to evoke what it feels like to experience totality, and to create the musical elements of a mini-concerto for cello and orchestra.
Classical Behind the Scenes: Stephen Taylor, composer (YouTube)
3-minute documentary, produced by Illinois Public Media (2018)
University of Illinois professor Stephen Taylor composes and arranges a wide variety of music for pop bands -
Pink Martini is but one example – but also transforms data sets, such as DNA, into music. He says,
"I think music is always about something...what I'm trying to do now is do pieces about data that we have out in the world."
Maumee River Index (YouTube)
sonification with video (2018)
The Maumee River Index is a 4-dimensional animation that overlays publicly available USGS and EPA water
quality data into a continuous, 136-mile cinematic aerial overview of a river and its surrounding landscape.
Graphics and animation by Nate Wooten.
Ocean of Air
for trombone & electronics (2017)
Many times in an airplane descending to land, I have felt the effort of the plane cutting through the atmosphere —
an ocean of air, surrounding our planet, with all of us living on its ocean floor.
This feeling hit home when we went on a family road trip to the Grand Canyon for the first time in 2016.
Music and genetics: Compositions and sonifications
Series of works and web apps including Archaea
for two carillons
(with an interactive website
(2015) for alto saxophone and electronics,
premiered by Debra Richtmeyer in Strasbourg, France, July 12, 2015;
and Variations Ascending
(2015) for piano, premiered by Ian Hobson in New York City, October 13, 2015;
"persuasive and evocative," the
New York Times
, October 14.
Opera based on the science-fiction novella by the late Ursula K. Le Guin; libretto by Marcia Johnson;
commissioned by the University of Illinois. Chamber version premiere by
in Portland, Oregon, on January 20, 2012.
Full premiere April 26-29, Urbana, Illinois. Featured at SummerWorks in Toronto, August 13, 2013;
The Machine Awakes
CD from Albany Records, featuring performances by three Grammy winners: pianist Gloria Cheng, violist Masumi Rostad
(Pacifica Quartet), and hornist Oto Carrillo (Chicago Symphony). Includes
The Machine Awakes
Also available on
and Apple Music. Fanfare
magazine, July/August 2010: "...terse, pointillistic, abstract, precise... pretty and anything but shallow...
With his refined and imaginative sound world, Stephen Andrew Taylor is a composer worth hearing."
For 12 percussionists, commissioned by the Moores School
of Music at the University of Houston; released on the CD Everywhere Entangled on
World Without Words
For 13 saxophones, commissioned by Debra Richtmeyer. Premiere
at NASA (North American Saxophone Alliance), Athens, Georgia, March 4,
For flute, harp, electronics and video, premiered at the 10th World
Harp Congress in Amsterdam, July 2008; the two-movement version premiered
in New York City and Montreal, August 2009. Released on the CD Voyage:
American Works for Flute and Harp on
For piano, performed at Tanglewood by Gloria Cheng July
29, 2006; "sparklingly tactile." Allan Kozinn, New York
8/2/06. Premiered October 24, 2004 by Gloria Cheng in Los Angeles.
"...Cheng unveiled something big and special: the first performance
of Stephen Andrew Taylor's 'Seven Memorials,' a splendid sonic tour
of natural phenomena all over the globe." Richard S. Ginell, LA
Including articles on composition, sonification, the music of György Ligeti,
and computer music.